Do people learn more from success or failure?
For me, it is always failure. I learn the most from my mistakes.
Success, for me often breeds arrogance. How does the saying go – the worst thing that can happen to a golfer is to have a great day on the greens.
It is our mistakes, our failures where we learn the most. For a manager and a team member, learning cannot be an exercise of micro-management, but one of failure and mistakes.
So, if we learn more from mistakes, how do we teach people to fly a plane? Mistakes cost life and limb. Mistakes can be fatal.
As a manager, you have to manage the risk in project work. We teach people to fly in simulators, where they can make mistakes, learn, make more mistakes and learn. We learn more from one mistake than we do from a dozen successes.
“I have a dilemma,” Sylvia explained. “I have a team member who consistently underperforms. And, every time I ask what happened, to try to find out what went wrong, the cause of the project failure, I always get a plausible reason. I understand why the project failed and it’s not this person’s fault. My dilemma is, I have a make or break project that needs to go to this person, but I hesitate to assign it.”
“Is this person competent in completing assigned projects?” I asked.
“Not in completing them,” she defended, “but, there is always a plausible explanation.”
“Do you need the project completed, or do you need an explanation?” I pressed, not waiting for an answer. “It sounds like your team member doesn’t get better at performing. Your team member gets better at explaining why the underperformance is never their fault. Your team member gets better at an explanation that you actually believe. The measure of performance is not an explanation. The only measure of performance is performance.”
Short bow to Lee Thayer, Leadership, Thinking, Being, Doing.